A safe par was
all Laura Davies needed when she came to the 493-yard, par-5 17th hole at the
Plainfield ( N.J.) Country Club in last week's playoff for the U.S. Women's
Open. The 23-year-old Englishwoman led Japan's Ayako Okamoto by two shots and
JoAnne Carner of the U.S. by three. Davies choked up on her driver and punched
a low, controlled draw 250 yards down the heart of the fairway. Then she
smashed a three-wood 237 yards to the front of the green. Three putts produced
a safe par, the Laura Davies way.
Moments later she
holed out a four-footer on 18 to become the first British player to win the
event, which, because of rain delays and the first three-way tie in Open
history, seemed to go on and on. The victory also made Davies, who won last
year's Ladies' British Open at Royal Birkdale, the only woman to triumph in
At 5'10" and
nearly 200 pounds, Davies is the longest hitter ever in women's golf. In
contests in England she has driven nearly 300 yards, and at Plainfield she
recorded a drive of 276 yards. More telling, she averaged 250.3 yards in
driving distance for the week, whereas the field averaged 218.7. It's fair to
say that if Davies played on the men's tour, she wouldn't be its shortest
But she didn't
have much time to think about that at Plainfield. The Tuesday playoff created
havoc in her tight schedule. After politely thanking everyone, she packed up
her trophy and high tailed it back to England to defend her British Open title,
starting Thursday. She arrived at Heathrow on Wednesday morning with just
enough time to stop at home in Ottershaw in Surrey before making the 4�-hour
drive to St. Mellion in Cornwall. Upon her arrival, she was lured into the
pressroom on the pretense that she was needed at a press conference and
surprised by all her pals with a champagne celebration.
Then, without so
much as a peek at the course before teeing off, Davies shot 73-72 to lead the
field by two strokes after 36 holes. No one was more surprised by those rounds
than Davies, who admitted, "For me, making the cut was the big thing."
She finished tied for second, one stroke behind one of her closest friends,
Britain's Alison Nicholas. "I didn't feel mentally tired, but my legs got
tired, walking up all those steep hills," said Davies.
All in all, she
had a remarkable two weeks. "When Nancy Lopez turned pro and won
everything, she was just exceptional, and I think Laura is like that," says
Carner, whose own powerful game was dwarfed by Davies's at Plainfield.
"Everything about her game is impressive. She is one of those great players
now being shown to the world."
Davies has been a
star on the women's tour in Europe since turning pro in 1985, several months
after representing Great Britain and Ireland in the Curtis Cup. She was the
leading money winner ($35,000) and Rookie of the Year in '85, and last year she
won four tournaments and repeated as the top money winner with $60,000.
only Davies's fourth tournament in the States. She finished 11th, six strokes
back, at last year's U.S. Open outside Dayton. She missed the cut by one stroke
at the '86 Dinah Shore. At this year's Dinah Shore she shot 66 in the first
round to take the lead but ballooned to an 83 in the second and finished tied
for 33rd. Since then, Davies has harnessed her power, choking up on her clubs
and not going for every pin with her irons.
In the enervating
heat and humidity at Plainfield, Davies made intelligent use of a tremendous
advantage. On a wet, hilly course, which played backbreakingly long for the
majority of the field, Davies could hit smooth, controlled tee shots with
three-and five-woods and still use less club for her approaches than players
who used drivers off the tee. Davies did hit her driver on the four par 5s, and
she reached two of them in two shots. No one else reached any of the par 5s in
two. Moreover, Davies needed only 120 putts for 72 holes, third-best in the
direct in her praise. "I do not feel I am even on the same plane with
her," she said. "Laura might be the most impressive player I have ever
met. She is thrilling to watch."